Missing pieces

  • By John Boyle Herald Writer
  • Monday, April 25, 2011 12:01am
  • Sports

Having the luxury of the No. 6 pick in the first round of last year’s draft, the Seahawks found their long-term solution at left tackle when they selected Oklahoma State’s Russell Okung.

This year head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider hope to use the draft to help build t

he rest of the offensive line.

And make no mistake, getting Okung, who looks like an elite left tackle in the making, was a huge step for Seattle’s new regime as it tries to build a long-term winner. After quarterback, that’s perhaps the most important positions in the game. The problem the Seahawks face is the rest of the O-line is anything but settled.

The Seahawks started 10 different line combinations in 16 regular season games last year, and while some of that was because of injuries, it was also a reflection of the lack of talented options Carroll had to work with. Patching things together on a week-to-week basis, the Seahawks were one of the worst rushing teams in the league, ranking 31st in rushing yards per game (89.0) and tied for 29th in yards-per-carry (3.7).

While the Seahawks have plenty of needs, getting better up front might be the single most important task for Carroll and Schneider. And while they can’t build a new line in one draft, the Seahawks hope to add at least a piece or two that can make a difference right away and also for years to come.

“I would say we would like to come out of the draft with at least one offensive lineman and one defensive lineman,” Schneider said. “Now, whether or not our board falls that way, I don’t know. But we are not going to reach for guys. Last year was unique because Walter (Jones) wasn’t here so all of a sudden, we need a left tackle. Like a legitimate guy. So that was pretty nerve-racking.”

And Seattle was fortunate that it was able to land Okung in a draft that was deep and talented at left tackle. This year’s draft class isn’t so strong at left tackle, which is fine for Seattle, and even better for the Seahawks, it’s a class that is deep at right tackle and the interior line positions.

“The fact that they were able to get their left tackle last year. … that’s one of the most important things that Seattle did last year,” said Rob Rang, a senior draft analyst for CBSSports.com. “They didn’t just read last year’s board, they read this year’s board too. That was pretty impressive that they were able to pull that off. There will be a right tackle available at 25 (the Seahawks have the 25th pick in the first round) virtually guaranteed that can come in and start right away.”

“And certainly you can find an interior lineman who will be able to play well in the second, third, fourth round.”

One option for Seattle at 25 if it wants to improve its line would be a guard, particularly if Florida’s Mike Pouncey, widely regarded as the best interior lineman in the draft, is still on the board. The good news for Seattle is that it has so many needs, it won’t be limited by position when it comes to upgrading its line in the draft.

Then again, having that many options could also qualify as bad news, because the fact is, other than Okung at left tackle, no position on the line is set for 2011. Max Unger, who missed almost all of last season because of a toe injury, will almost certainly start somewhere, likely at center or right guard. He began last year at right guard with Chris Spencer at center, but Spencer is a free agent and Schneider has said the team views Unger as the long term solution at center. So if we assume for a moment that Unger is the starting center, that potentially leaves holes at both guard spots.

At right tackle, meanwhile, the Seahawks could re-sign Sean Locklear, but the fact that they restructured his deal before last season, cutting his pay and making him a free agent this year instead of next, seems to indicate that he’s not a huge priority. Stacy Andrews, who took over for Unger at right guard last season, is another option at right tackle — his natural position — but it’s unlikely Seattle will keep him under his current contract, which has him making more than $5 million next season.

Basically, there are only two certainties on Seattle’s line next season: Okung and a whole lot of change. In this week’s draft, Schneider and Carroll hope to find at least some of the pieces they’ll need to build the foundation of their offense for this year and many more to come.

Herald Writer John Boyle: jboyle@heraldnet.com. For more Seahawks coverage, check out the Seahawks blog at heraldnet.com/seahawksblog

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